Women’s hockey: Ritu Rani unsure of future in team

The 24-yeard-old Ritu had led Indian women to their first Olympic appearance in 36 years but had fallen out of favour with the team management after reportedly not being focused enough on the task at hand.

Ritu, named in the 29 probables for the national camp starting Sunday, is yet to decide on joining the camp or her future with the national side.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Former Indian women’s hockey captain Ritu Rani, who was dropped from the team for Rio Olympics citing “attitude” issues, has been named among the 29 probables for the national camp beginning Sunday in Bhopal.

The 24-yeard-old Ritu had led Indian women to their first Olympic appearance in 36 years but had fallen out of favour with the team management after reportedly not being focused enough on the task at hand. She had also got engaged during that time. Having been part of the side for almost a decade, the talented midfielder had been left out of the Rio-bound side barely a month before the games. In her absence, Sushila Chanu was named skipper of the side.

Ritu, however, is yet to decide on joining the camp or her future with the national side. Having got married on August 18, she admitted she was still in the process of settling into the new surroundings even as she expressed anguish at missing out on the Games.

“No one spoke to me before including my name in the list, I got to know only a couple of days before. After all that happened, including being accused of not contributing to the team and not being focused enough, I am not sure of joining the camp. I haven’t decided anything yet, however, let’s see how things go,” Ritu told Sportstar.

This would be the team’s first camp after the Olympics, where the Indian women finished last. The team would be concentrating on improving on its skills ahead of the fourth Asian Champions Trophy, beginning October 29 in Singapore followed by a tour of Australia in November. “The Olympics was a major exposure for the players and they know now what it takes to be in the top league and play at the highest level. We will work towards improving our basics and develop the game ahead of a gruelling season,” chief coach Neil Hawgood said.

Ritu admitted that there was no incentive for her, at the moment, to get back to national duty. “Barring Olympics, I have played every other major international tournament in my long career. The Olympics was a childhood dream since I first picked up hockey. Even when it came true for the team, it didn’t for me. Now I need to think about it and decide whether I am motivated anymore,” she said.

Having continued her practice and training during this period, Ritu is confident of continuing on the domestic circuit for the next few years. The national team, though, remains uncertain.

The probables:

Goalkeepers: Rajani Etimarpu, Savita, Sonal Minz.

Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika Thakur, Sunita Lakra, Sushila Chanu, Hnialum Lalruatfeli, Namita Toppo, Rukmani Dodray.

Midfielders: Ritu Rani, Lilima Minz, Navjot Kaur, Monika, Renuka Yadav, Lily Chanu, Nikki Pradhan, Narinder Kaur, Lalhlunmawii, Navdeep Kaur.

Forwards: Rani Rampal, Poonam Rani, Vandana Katariya, Anuradha Devi, Preeti Dubey, Sonika, Anupa Barla, Jyoti Gupta, Punam Barla.